When a great all time player has a great all time game, especially in the NBA playoffs, there is a feeling that surrounds an arena when people realize that this is a moment and a place.
The collective adrenaline forces viewers to perspective – and that can include the players and coaches of both teams – and they can’t help but capture the memory of how they experienced it, as well as the sight of watching it happen.
Kevin Durant did so on Tuesday night at the Barclays Center in the Brooklyn Nets’ 114-108 win over the Milwaukee Bucks when the Nets took an unlikely 3-2 lead in this Eastern Conference semifinal series by holding substantial odds and a 17- Points-point survived deficit.
And we know one person who holds on to it.
“You know, he’s the best player in the world right now,” said Bucks star Giannis Antetokounmpo after relegating his own 34 points and 12 rebounds.
How will it be remembered? Forty-nine points in 48 minutes. The curling of his lips as he looked up at the sky for his 3-pointer dagger. Or just call it “Game 5”.
Talk about NBA ratings. Talk about too many games and too many injuries. Talk about too many repetitions or 3-pointers or too much insult as much as you want. The reason people are drawn to NBA basketball at the highest level is because of their small role in a game like Durant.
“I was able to collect some points,” said Durant dryly. “I played every minute and that helped me with my score.”
That was part of Durant’s attempts to be understated afterwards, partly because he knows the series isn’t over and partly because it probably just felt good to pretend this was just another box to put on record.
Which of course is not true. He had 17 rebounds, 10 assists, 3 steals and 2 blocks. Oddly enough, however, the enormity of the statistics doesn’t quite capture this. Much better to see him rise over and over again to make those silky jumpers over the defenders. Criticize the Bucks’ defense or Milwaukee trainer Mike Budenholzer for not assigning him Antetokounmpo or not reuniting him twice; all nine of Durant’s jumpers in the fourth quarter were highly competitive. He made six.
“What can I tell you, it’s not ideal,” said Nets coach Steve Nash, not taking Durant out of the game. “But if we didn’t play him at 48, we probably wouldn’t have won tonight. It’s a difficult decision; it’s an easy decision that is very difficult to make.”
Kevin Durant finished Game 5 with a 49-point triple-double. Nathaniel S. Butler / NBAE / Getty Images
The late NBA commissioner David Stern has always taught the wise wisdom that the size of the game and its players always wins. The mistakes of those who play, manage, coach, or officiate are brought to triviality when you see Durant rise gracefully to take such a multitude of impossible-looking shots.
“Kevin’s game was just amazing,” said James Harden, who has been in that field once or twice in his career, although, let’s be honest, not in a playoff situation like this. “He was unimpressed throughout the game.”
Everything about Harden’s night was ridiculous – that he was listed as out the day before and went from doubtful to questionable in the starting XI within 12 hours. That he had $ 100 in elastic therapeutic tape curled over his right leg in a desperate attempt to attach his hamstring to his thighbone. That he could barely run or cut and still played 46-46! — Protocol. That he went 1-out-of-10 and was still very much appreciated by his teammates.
A novella could be written on Harden’s day. But it’s a footnote.
Durant has a number of nicknames. Durantel. Lean reaper. KD of course. But the best is probably Easy Money Sniper. He likes it so much, it’s his Instagram handle. Some of his friends just call him Easy Money. It comes to mind at moments like this, those who know him best whisper “Easy Money” as those shots keep falling.
That was perhaps the most remarkable thing about the whole thing, Durant made it look really simple. Analyze him to death, but these pieces determine his career. What a way to have a defining game.
“To be honest, I don’t even judge or look at performance,” said Durant. “As soon as they happen, I just try to keep going and see if I can do it again. It was a fun game to take part in. There have been a lot of games in my career that I enjoyed as much. I’m sure if I think about it we can talk about it again, but right now it was great that we got the W. “